An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Sarasota County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

CHNEP gets $75K grant from Florida DEP

After last year’s red tide and blue-green algae epidemic in Southwest Florida, the need to protect Florida waterways couldn’t be more urgent.

One program in the business of saving and restoring these habitats is the Charlotte Harbor Natural Estuary program.

Last week, the Punta Gorda Council, representing the organization as a local host agency, approved a $75,000 grant agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for funding to be received by CHNEP.

“The FDEP has, for the past couple of years, provided that amount of funding,” said Jennifer Hecker, CHNEP executive director. “We are happy and grateful to continue to receive funding support from them.”

In their efforts, CHNEP oversees a 4,700-square-mile service area that stretches from Charlotte, Bonita Springs and Venice, up to Winter Haven.

The program’s existence is primarily based on public and privately donated funds. They also received $600,000 from the United States Environmental Protection Agency as part of the federal clean water act.

“We do a lot of work on water quality, sea grass and oyster reef restoration and preservation to protect and restore our water resources,” said Hecker. “That’s our primary objective. We also work to protect our native wildlife populations including fisheries and to engage and power the public to protect these resources through public education.”

An estuary is a tidal mouth of a large river, where the tide meets the stream. Estuaries and their watersheds that the CHNEP protects include:

  • Dona and Roberts Bays
  • Lemon Bay
  • Charlotte Harbor
  • Tidal Caloosahatchee
  • Pine Island Sound
  • Estero Bay

“We just finished a sea grass planting in the Caloosahatchee River and that has taken hold and we have first signs of (growth) in that river in a decade. Endangered manatees use that sea grass.”

Hecker said they get a variety of different state contributions as well as funds from local governments. All the cities and counties are asked to contribute in varying amounts. They also receive contributions from private citizens to help their cause.

“All these contributions help us fund different types of restoration and education initiative we are protecting,” said Hecker.

Harmful algae blooms continue to plague waters throughout the CHNEP area, according to CHNEP’s website. Nutrient pollution has been entering the area’s waterways for decades. There is no easy quick fix, but with further investments, CHNEP is determined to reduce harmful algae blooms that are fueled by that pollution.

To support CHNEP and their water preservation efforts, go online to

Judge rules for DEP, but Cortez fish camp gets stay order

Raymond Guthrie Jr. doesn’t need to dismantle and remove the stilt house he built in Sarasota Bay near the Cortez-based A.P. Bell Fish Co. or pay fines for ignoring a Florida Department of Environmental Protection order — at least not yet.

While 12th Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas entered a summary judgment Feb. 5 in favor of the DEP and against Guthrie, the judge also stayed its execution. The DEP will not be able to enforce the court order during the duration of the stay.

Nicholas called it an “indefinite stay,” declining to set an end date as requested by DEP assistant general counsel Marianna Sarkisyan.

In ruling on the summary judgment, Nicholas said his decision was based on a proper November 2017 DEP final order, as well as Guthrie’s failure to respond or request a hearing.

As for his decision to stay the judgment, the judge said: “It’s appropriate to stay the destructive provisions with regard to this structure and see how this other case plays out,” referring to a case filed by A.P. Bell in May 2018. Karen Bell, A.P. Bell’s president, claims the land under the stilt house belongs to her company.

In addition, the judge postponed enforcement of the penalties DEP imposed in the final order that require Guthrie to pay $6,500 in fines, costs and expenses.

Venice receives $100K for urban forest along Intracoastal Waterway

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation awarded a $100,000 matching grant to Venice Area Beautification Inc. (VABI) to support the creation of an Urban Forest along the Intracoastal Waterway in Venice.

Conservation Foundation is partnering with VABI to reforest a disused section of the old CSX railroad adjacent to the Venetian Waterway Park. Once completed, the Urban Forest will extend about 1.75 miles and provide a sanctuary for many insects, birds, and animals, and a natural-area park for all to enjoy.

The Urban Forest is integral to the City of Venice's urban design introduced by noted American landscape architect John Nolen in 1926. This greenbelt corridor complements Nolen's design principles based on "nature leading the way." The Urban Forest will stretch from the Venice Train Depot to Center Road and will provide a beautiful woodland trail for pedestrians parallel to the Venetian Waterway Park. All native trees and shrubs are being planted so that the forest provides habitat specifically for migratory songbirds and native wildlife.

Florida red tide levels are the lowest in more than a year

After more than a year, lab tests showed red tide concentrations across Florida were rated at “not present” to “background” concentrations.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission tested more than 100 water samples offshore and in bay areas from Northwest, Southwest and the east coast of Florida, where red tide peaked in August and September. Those tests showed levels of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, were under 1,000 cells per liter for the first time since the outbreak began in late October 2017.

Red tide levels began to dip around Christmastime, but there was a resurgence at the beginning of January off the coast of Sarasota and Charlotte counties. Manatee has background concentrations (between 0 and 1,000 cells per liter) and Sarasota did not appear on the report Monday.

Charlotte County observed medium concentrations near Placida Harbor during tests performed from Jan. 17 to 24, but samples taken in the region on Monday showed levels dipped to trace amounts.

It is unknown whether more toxic algae lurks offshore, but conditions have shown notable improvement.

More than 16K fish to be released in Florida after red tide devastates marine life

PORT RICHEY, Fla. — More than 16,000 young and adult redfish are slated for release into the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay after one of the worst outbreaks of red tide killed hundreds of thousands of tons of marine life.

It's an effort to rejuvenate fisheries and their surrounding environments.

The Coastal Conservation Association Florida, partnering with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Duke Energy, plan to begin the process Tuesday.

They'll meet at 11 a.m. at Brasher Park.

"We’re extremely excited to begin releasing these fish now that the waters are determined to be safe," Brian Gorski, CCA Florida's executive director, said in a news release.

CCA Florida says each of its releases includes about 2,000 juvenile redfish and 25-30 adult fish. All were hatchery-reared at the Duke Energy Mariculture Center in Crystal River.

After working in Pasco County, crews plan to meet again Feb. 7 at Hillsborough County's Cockroach Bay Ramp in Ruskin and Pinellas County's Fort De Soto Park.

Release dates for Charlotte, Collier, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota counties still are to be determined.

City of Sarasota officials hope to avoid costly pipeline replacement

SARASOTA — It could cost nearly $3 million to replace a pipeline that burst in late December, sending sewage into Sarasota Bay, if the pipe is deemed vulnerable in the city’s ongoing analysis of its aging infrastructure.

The Sarasota City Commission received an update from city staffers — at the urging of Commissioner Hagen Brody — about the pipe and efforts to prevent another major spill. According to city documents, a roughly 30-year-old pipe that ruptured on Dec. 20, discharging 918,000 gallons of untreated wastewater into Sarasota Bay near Centennial Park, could cost the city $2.8 million if an ongoing evaluation of the city’s pipelines reveals vulnerabilities in the larger pipeline.

But it’s City Manager Tom Barwin’s hope that replacing approximately 100 feet of the pipe, an undertaking completed Jan. 24, could avoid the need to replace the entire line.

“If there’s a situation that the analysis teases out that we have a vulnerable problem, then we have to address it,” Barwin said.

In the aftermath of the spill, the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County issued a health advisory to residents and visitors near Sarasota Bay asking them to take special precautions. The public was warned to avoid the water in the bay near the park and anyone who came into contact with water from Sarasota Bay was urged to wash thoroughly, especially before eating or drinking, the health department advised.

Red tide: Sarasota County considers water quality summit

Commissioners agree it’s a priority to come up with solutions to problems plaguing the area.

SARASOTA COUNTY — Top Sarasota County officials are considering organizing a water quality summit amid the longest local red tide outbreak in recorded history.

The Sarasota County Commission this week agreed that a summit addressing water quality issues to generate solutions to problems plaguing the area should happen as soon as possible. The discussion about a potential summit — at the urging of Commissioner Christian Ziegler — comes as the area faces the lengthiest documented toxic red tide event since the 1940s, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials.

“Everyone can agree red tide happens naturally, but there are things we can do to better our water quality and mitigate red tide,” Ziegler said.

According to the FWC’s most recent red tide report released on Thursday, samples taken offshore near Sarasota and Manatee counties show virtually no traces of the toxic algae organism, Karenia brevis, which has plagued the area for about 16 months and experienced a resurgence in early January. While the latest report is good news for the area, it gives no definitive indication that the end of the bloom is near. The bloom once spanned 150 miles from St. Petersburg to Key West and killed nearly 600 tons of marine life in Sarasota and Manatee counties and the City of Sarasota, according to debris-removal figures from the three jurisdictions.

Florida red tide levels are the lowest in more than a year

It is unknown whether more toxic algae lurks offshore, but conditions have shown notable improvement.

After more than a year, lab tests showed red tide concentrations across Florida were rated at “not present” to “background” concentrations.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission tested more than 100 water samples offshore and in bay areas from Northwest, Southwest and the east coast of Florida, where red tide peaked in August and September. Those tests showed levels of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, were under 1,000 cells per liter for the first time since the outbreak began in late October 2017.

Red tide levels began to dip around Christmastime, but there was a resurgence at the beginning of January off the coast of Sarasota and Charlotte counties. Manatee has background concentrations (between 0 and 1,000 cells per liter) and Sarasota did not appear on the report Monday.

Charlotte County observed medium concentrations near Placida Harbor during tests performed from Jan. 17 to 24, but samples taken in the region on Monday showed levels dipped to trace amounts.

It is unknown whether more red tide lurks offshore, but conditions have shown notable improvement.

New Pass dredge halfway done

The sand from the $3.9 million dredge is being used to renourish nearby Lido Beach.

Work on the $3.9 million dredging of New Pass and nourishment of Lido Beach is nearly halfway done, Sarasota city officials said.

When the project is complete, nearly 185,000 cubic yards of sand will have been taken from New Pass, which connects Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

The dredging of New Pass follows the U.S. Coast Guard’s decision to remove the channel’s navigation markers — a signal to boaters the channel isn’t up to safety standards — in 2017. Coast Guard officials said prior they would re-examine the channel following the dredging to see if markers could be replaced.

Once it has been dredged, the sand is transported nearly 2 miles to Lido Beach as part of an emergency nourishment project that began following the city’s local state of emergency declaration in May 2018.

Manatee County drops objection to Greer Island groin

Longboat presses ahead with permitting for five sand-saving structures.

Longboat Key officials are proceeding with plans to build five sand-saving beach structures at the north end of the island after Manatee County officials indicated they would not object to the construction of a third on Greer Island, a county-owned property.

That would bring the project total to five structures, known as groins. Three are planned on the western shore of Greer Island, and two are planned farther to the south, near the Longbeach Condominiums, between North Shore Road and Broadway Street.

How they work

Groins are shoreline structures, usually about 300 feet long, that run into the water perpendicular to the beach. They work by trapping and accumulating sand as it is moved down the beach by the naturally flowing currents.

Manatee County officials also said they would take part in a cooperative effort to take turns dredging Longboat Pass and direct the dredged sand to the overall effort of maintaining the town’s north-end shoreline, Public Works Director Isaac Brownman said in a memo to City Manager Tom Harmer.

Manatee County officials had objected to a third groin on Greer Island but have since dropped their objection. But, the county said it will not help Longboat with funding the $12 million groin project to build all five. Longboat officials have previously said the project would be funded from the town’s capital budget.

Nearly a third of state's waters are polluted, experts say

FORT MYERS – "Not a single resident in Florida lives more than 20 miles from an impaired waterway," said John Cassani, Calusa Waterkeeper, at the first Florida Water Policy Summit last Monday.

Organized around the idea that "clean water is a basic human right," the event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day featured six speakers from local conservation groups who spoke about actionable water policy that can improve Florida's impaired waters.

And Florida has a lot of impaired waters - currently 12 million acres under Best Management Action Plans, or BMAPs, which are 15-year restoration plans required by the federal government when a waterbody is not meeting quality standards.

The Federal Clean Water Act requires each state to compile a list of waterbodies that aren't up to snuff.

Then, the Department of Environmental Protection conducts watershed assessments.

Any waterbody that doesn't meet standards for pollution is scheduled for a Total Maximum Daily Load, which is a limit for the amount of a particular pollutant that a waterbody can handle.

The state of Florida currently has 416 TMDLs, with 80 waterbodies on a waiting list to receive one, according to Maria Carrozzo, senior environmental policy specialist at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

Water shutdowns set for water main replacement on the island of Venice

Potable Water Outage - 700 block Guild and 108 Pine Grove (01/29/19)

There will be a water outage on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM that will affect the following areas:

  • 705-753 Guild Dr
  • 108 Pine Grove Rd

This project is part of the City of Venice Utilities Department continued renovation of the City's 90-year-old utility system. The City is spending about $10 million annually to update water and sewer systems, specifically part of the Watermain Replacement Program - Phase 5.

Once service is restored, you will be required to boil your water for consumption purposes only for the next 72 hours AND until you receive a boil water rescind notice from the City of Venice.

You can still use your water for washing dishes, laundry, showering, etc. The advisory is for consumption purposes only.

Should you have any questions, please call the City of Venice Utilities Department at (941) 480-3333.

USF forum: Collaboration required to prepare for climate change

MANATEE COUNTY — Although research and planning about climate change is occurring globally, speakers at a University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee conference on Friday (Jan. 25) said that work is not being adequately coordinated.

“Nobody’s put the picture together so people get it,” Bob Bunting, an atmospheric scientist who resides on Longboat Key, said.

Bunting told the near-capacity crowd of 150 not to expect politicians to take the lead. “Public opinion drives government — not the other way.”

“Our task is not to sit around and moan,” said Robert Corell, a climate scientist and principal with the Global Environment Technology Foundation.

Corell said society needs “to know, to assess, to plan, to act.” The impact on what he called the four E’s — energy, environment, economics and education — must be addressed.

Bunting believes global warming can be mitigated, perhaps in ways that have yet to be discovered. Yet researchers and others must stop working in “silos” and craft “an integrated solution.”

Floridians should be especially concerned, Bunting said. The state is the world’s 17th largest economy. If it is to protect that economy, it needs to start preparing for more intense tidal flooding and storm surge. “It would seem we should be leading the world in climate change discussions — but we are not.”

Red tide blamed for worst Sarasota tourism decline since 9/11

Sarasota County's legislative delegation is asked to prioritize fighting the toxic algae.

Sarasota leaders heard more details Monday about how devastating red tide has been, with the county's top tourism promoter telling the Sarasota County Legislative Delegation that the region has experienced the worst tourism decline in more than a decade.

Visit Sarasota County Executive Director Virginia Haley told the delegation that the drop in tourism at the end of last year was the worst the county has seen since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in 2001.

And Haley said bookings are still off as the region enters peak tourism season.

“It’s having a real massive lingering effect,” Haley said.

Haley noted that this is the first time there has been a severe red tide in the era of cellphone cameras. The images of dead fish have ricocheted across the Internet, giving tourism promoters tremendous challenges.

Red tide often has intermittent impacts. A bad stretch of red tide can quickly give way to good beach conditions for an extended period.

FWC to pause aquatic plant herbicide treatment while collecting public comment

Beginning Jan. 28, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will temporarily pause its aquatic herbicide treatment program throughout the state. During this pause, staff will work to collect public comments regarding the FWC’s aquatic plant management program.

The FWC will hold several public meetings to gather community input about the program. Specific dates and locations of these meetings will be announced shortly. Comments can also be sent to

Invasive plants degrade and diminish Florida's waterways by displacing native plant communities. Some invasive aquatic plants pose a significant threat to human welfare and cause economic problems by impeding flood control and affecting recreational use of waterways.

Go to and click on Invasive Plants to find out more about invasive plant management, including Frequently Asked Questions.

Venice City Council favors statewide stormwater rule

VENICE — The Venice City Council voted to support several statewide efforts to improve the environment Tuesday, including consideration of a resolution to support implementation of the statewide stormwater treatment rule that was abandoned in 2011, septic tank inspections and a proposed ban on smoking at the beach.

The city must still craft and adopt a resolution to support the stormwater rule which, in part, would require stormwater treatment systems to be at least 80 percent effective in reducing phosphorus and nutrients in stormwater, compared with the currently typical effectiveness of 40 to 45 percent.

That would mirror a resolution of support adopted by the city of North Port on Dec. 11 and transmitted to the governor for consideration.

North Port City Manager Peter Lear asked Venice to follow his city’s action in a Dec. 18 letter to Venice Mayor John Holic, but discussion of the item was pushed back until Tuesday, because of other quasi-judicial hearings.

Earlier in the meeting, several members of Hands Along the Water, made a similar plea during public comment.

They were joined by North Port City Commissioner Jill Luke, who made that same appeal.

Luke called enforcement of the statewide stormwater treatment rule, “the lowest hanging fruit that we have, in order to do something for red tide, algae blooms and everything else.”

Members of Hands Along the Water, the grassroots environmental group that formed in August in response to the persistent red tide bloom, delivered variations of the same message.

Judge dismisses Siesta Key group case attempting to stop Big Pass dredge

Complaint sought to stop plan to dig to renourish Lido Key, but another lawsuit remains

SARASOTA — A repeated attempt by a Siesta Key group to curtail the city’s planned dredging of Big Pass to renourish Lido Beach’s disappearing shoreline has been blocked by a judge.

Circuit Court Judge Andrea McHugh on Friday dismissed an amended lawsuit filed in October by the Siesta Key Association alleging the city was required to seek and obtain approval for the project from the Sarasota County Commission as required by environmental chapters of the comprehensive plans of both jurisdictions. McHugh in October granted the city of Sarasota’s motion to dismiss the case, without prejudice, paving the way for the group to file the recently dismissed amended complaint. The October dismissal stated that a local government’s comprehensive plan is not law, according to court documents.

This time around, McHugh dismissed one count with prejudice, meaning the group cannot pursue the issue further. That count attempting to stop the project was dismissed because the city obtained a valid permit for the project from the appropriate issuing agency, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, according to McHugh’s judgement.

The second count, dismissed without prejudice, requested the court to compel the city to submit the project plans to the Sarasota County Commission for approval to obtain a county permit.

Florida Gulf Coast University trying to secure more than $9 million to study red tide

FORT MYERS – Florida Gulf Coast University is hoping to secure more than $9 million from the state so it can launch a multidisciplinary research initiative that will focus on red tide.

"We want red tide to be the first in a series of commitments on water issues, but we know there is a certain economic, ecological and political urgency to red tide," FGCU President Mike Martin said. "We have got ... people of means and influences attention, so we are going to jump on that one first."

Red tide and blue-green algae infected waterways in Southwest Florida and other parts of the state last year, killing marine life and deterring tourists from visiting beaches. The crisis is one of the reasons why FGCU wants the funding for its proposed project.

Algal blooms cost Florida $17.3 million in emergency funding last year

Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission say efforts to put down pollution in Lake Okeechobee will help lessen algae blooms.

But it’s unlikely, they warn, the natural nuisance will ever go away.

“We will not get rid of red tide,” said Gil McRae, director of FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

State officials provided an update on algae to the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.

The toxic trouble created political turmoil in 2018 as blue-green algae blooms prompted then-Gov. Rick Scott to call a state of emergency in July. Then red tide prompted another emergency declaration in August.

The crisis prompted the state to budget an extra $19 million to research and response efforts. The bulk of the funding, $14.6 million went to cleaning up areas plagued by red tide, mostly removing redfish piled on shores. Millions more went to sampling and sucking blue-green algae that took over the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie rivers and connected water systems.

In total, about $17.3 million was spent in 12 counties from the now-expired executive orders.

One option for disposal of biosolids: recycling them to make sustainable bricks

How can you recycle the world’s stockpiles of treated sewage sludge and boost sustainability in the construction industry, all at the same time? Turn those biosolids into bricks.

Biosolids are a by-product of the wastewater treatment process that can be used as fertiliser, in land rehabilitation or as a construction material.

Around 30% of the world’s biosolids are stockpiled or sent to landfill, using up valuable land and potentially emitting greenhouse gases, creating an environmental challenge.

Now a team at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, has demonstrated that fired-clay bricks incorporating biosolids could be a sustainable solution for both the wastewater treatment and brickmaking industries.

Published this month in the journal Buildings, the research showed how making biosolids bricks only required around half the energy of conventional bricks.

As well as being cheaper to produce, the biosolids bricks also had a lower thermal conductivity, transferring less heat to potentially give buildings higher environmental performance.

The EU produces over 9 million tonnes of biosolids a year, while the United States produces about 7.1 million tonnes. In Australia, 327,000 tonnes of biosolids are produced annually.

The study found there was a significant opportunity to create a new beneficial reuse market - bricks.